Robots help patients stay connected

Envision your child diagnosed with an illness that requires them to live in a hospital.

Not in their own bed or home. Imagine how they feel. Not sure what is going on. Feeling afraid, alone and isolated.

It is equally tough for parents.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta helps to ease those emotions, bridging personal and social gaps through the use of three OhmniLabs telepresence robots. Two were gifted from Garth Brook’s foundation, Teammates for Kids, for the Child Life Zone at Scottish Rite.

“The patients and families continue to be excited about them. The kids are completely into this new technology and they want to jump right into using it,” patient activity specialist Jalessa Warren said.

Approximately 56 inches tall, lightweight, mobile and hands-free, these robots allow for patients and their families to communicate when they are not able to be together.

Simply put, it is a tablet attached to a pole that is on wheels. The person behind the tablet can control the robot. “It is like FaceTime on wheels,” Warren explained.

KellyAnn Madsen’s, 10-year-old son Nolan was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in his right femur in February 2019. He used the robot while he was inpatient for chemotherapy treatment at the Children’s at Scottish Rite.

“Seeing Nolan smile and laugh as he controlled the robot was so heartwarming,” said Nolan’s mom. “Seeing his smile was just the best. We all laughed so hard when he figured out the speed controls and he made the robot play chase with one of the child life specialists.”

Children’s Child Life Zone is a large, treatment-free, activity area for kids and family members of the children in the hospital. It’s a place for kids to be kids.

Prior to COVID-19 and now, there are times children can’t leave their rooms, which means they can’t participate in hospital activities.

“With the robots, it is a way for us to reach those kids and allow them to join in on the activities we have going on,” Warren said.

“They can still watch a movie, do a craft, participate in a holiday event, or see a Braves or Atlanta United player,” she added. “It still gives them that connection with the community that people still love to get and show them that people are still caring and thinking about them.”


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